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Pro Ecclesia Vol 16-N4: A Journal of Catholic and Evangelical Theology

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Pro Ecclesia is a quarterly journal of theology published by the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology. It seeks to give contemporary expression to the one apostolic faith and its classic traditions, working for and manifesting the church's unity by research, theological construction, and free exchange of opinion. Members of its advisory council represent communities committed to the authority of Holy Scripture, ecumenical dogmatic teaching and the structural continuity of the church, and are themselves dedicated to maintaining and invigorating these commitments. The journal publishes biblical, liturgical, historical and doctrinal articles that promote or illumine its purposes.

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PAUL AND ISRAEL: AN APOCALYPTIC READING

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Douglas Harink

We are concerned with the new creation, and not with the sequence of cause and effect. In short, we are concerned with the Truth of God in Jesus Christ.

—Karl Barth2

The question of supersessionism in Paul is the question of what Paul says about Israel, primarily of course in Rom 9–11. Yet to go directly to those extremely contested chapters in an attempt to resolve the question of supersessionism or to discern Paul’s story of Israel may not be the most helpful tactic in addressing the issues. The purpose of this essay is to take a step back, at least initially, from the exegesis of specific texts in Rom 9–11, and to try to gain a better perspective on the question of supersessionism from a more comprehensive vantage point than focused exegesis of those chapters can supply. I will show how Paul’s theology of Israel is a theme within his overarching “apocalyptic” theological vision, and ask what such a reading might yield toward addressing the issue of supersessionism.

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POETICS AND DOXOLOGY: VON BALTHASAR ON POETIC RESISTANCE TO MODERNITY’S TURN TO THE SUBJECT

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Kevin Mongrain

Reestablishing a constructive relationship between theological, cosmological, and anthropological discourses is central to Hans Urs von Balthasar’s entire intellectual project. This relationship is one in which theology has a regulative but noncoercive role in guiding cosmology and anthropology toward understanding the creation and humanity’s place in it according to Christocentric and Trinitarian patterns of relationality.1 Von Balthasar’s grand intellectual ideal is a Chalcedonian symbiosis of biblical and classical Christian theology, cosmology, and anthropology. It is an intellectual ecosystem with theology’s discourses about the transcendence of the Creator God, the dual natures of Christ, and the unity-in-difference of the Trinitarian Persons creating the template for what is said within and between cosmology and anthropology.2

Both the regulative and the noncoercive aspects of theology’s role in this intellectual ecosystem depend for their success on theology’s ability to develop renewed appreciation for the priority of prerational aesthetic insight over rational explanation. Placing a fully biblical Christology and Trinitarian theology at the center of Christian intellectual life necessarily means granting symbols (particularly the biblical narrative and the Christian sacraments) regulative control over human concepts about God, nature, and human life. This order of priorities is good both for theology’s internal health and for its external public relations, von Balthasar believes. Theological dogmas make sense and function as truth in people’s lives only insofar as they are read through the lens of moral holiness; moral holiness is possible and sustainable only insofar as the biblical narrative and its sacramental symbols captivate hearts with irresistibly fascinating patterns of holiness. Likewise, theological dogmas about Christ and Trinity can only properly function as guides for cosmology and anthropology if they are understood in their organic connection to a spirituality formed by the biblical narrative and sacramental symbols; if they are not, then theology’s efforts to guide cosmology and anthropology inevitably will be misunderstood as crude dogmatism arbitrarily seeking to bully and colonize intellectual disciplines that ought to have their own independence.

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SELF-ANNIHILATION OR DAMNATION? A DISPUTABLE QUESTION IN CHRISTIAN ESCHATOLOGY

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Paul J. Griffiths

By the fourth century, if not earlier, a picture of what happens to human beings at the death of the body had been largely agreed upon by Christians. It was a picture intimately linked with a particular anthropology, as all such inevitably are: depicting what happens when we die is always at least an extrapolation from what we take ourselves to be while alive; it is also among the more important tools we have for focusing and elaborating our self-understanding, and for meditating discursively and visually upon what we take ourselves to be. Disputes in eschatology are always also disputes in anthropology. What interests me in this essay are two facts about the Christian tradition. The first is that it had, by the fourth century, developed conceptual resources that could, if pressed only a little, easily yield the view that among the things we are capable of doing to ourselves is annihilation, taking ourselves quite out of existence, leaving nothing behind. These resources were of central importance to the tradition, too. They weren’t marginalia or the speculation of some insignificant figures. Some thinkers, notably Augustine, get quite close to explicitly affirming that we can take ourselves out of existence, and, given his anthropology, it would certainly have made good sense for him to say just this. But in fact he always draws back: although he canvasses the possibility explicitly on occasion, and more often implies it by saying things that seem quite naturally to lead to it, he never affirms it. When he does discuss the possibility it is always negatively; and when it is implied, or seems to be, the implication is never assented to. And in all this Augustine is entirely typical of Christian thinkers in late antiquity who discuss the postmortem questions. This is the second interesting fact that I’ll explore in this essay: a conclusion strongly suggested by some among the conceptual resources of a particular tradition is nevertheless resisted by the principal systematizers and transmitters of that tradition. When this happens, there is an internal tension. That’s what I want to explore in the case of the question of self-annihilation: I want to understand why there is a tension of the sort I’ve briefly sketched, and to suggest how it might be eased.

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DOCTORES ECCLESIAE

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D. H. Williams

The first half of the fourth century yields few texts produced by Latin writers that come from the genre of biblical exposition: an abbreviated set of glosses on the Apocalypse by Victorinus of Poetovio (martyred in 304),1 a fragmented commentary or scholia on the Gospels by Fortunatianus of Aquileia,2 a sermon that has been associated with the works of Cyprian,3 and Hilary of Poitiers’s commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. Only Hilary’s provides a near-complete text, making it the first full Latin commentary to be preserved and, therefore, of enormous value in reconstructing the exegetical and literary history of the West at this time.4 The reader of his text is rewarded with an interpretive window, if limited, into the doctrinal and exegetical milieu of the West some twenty-five years after the Council of Nicaea. Those subjects emphasized in the document and those not emphasized are of equal importance since it is not certain when the West adopted the theological vision associated with the Nicene Creed.5 The majority of Latin bishops either did not know of the Nicene Creed or had little use for such a controversial formula until the ecclesiastical-imperial politics, which had plagued the West, began to disrupt Latin sees in the mid-350s. As late as the Council of Ariminum (359), Western bishops were finally prepared to accept another creed so long as their understanding of orthodoxy was preserved.6

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